(Mt. 7:21-23) Does Jesus teach that those who call out to him in the sinner’s prayer will actually go to hell?

CLAIM: Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS’” (Mt. 7:21-23). Lordship theologian Martin Lloyd-Jones writes, “‘It is no use saying, “Lord, Lord,” unless you do the things that I command you’, says Christ. It comes to this, that unless my life is a righteous life, I must be very careful before I claim that I am covered by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.”[1] Does this passage teach that professing believers will be sent to hell because they really didn’t have obedient faith?

RESPONSE: This is a precarious passage for Lordship theologians to use in defense of fruit and works as a sign of a true believer. When we check the context, we see that this passage comes on the heels of how to identify false prophets in 7:15-20—not true believers. In fact, this passage refers to those who “prophesy in Your name” (v.22). But works aren’t the issue in this passage. Jesus isn’t condemning men without observable works; instead, he is condemning men with observable works! Charles Bing writes, “Given their understanding, the passage would actually teach against using works as proof of salvation, because the works performed in verse 22 do not reveal the professors’ true spiritual condition as shown by the subsequent rebuke (v.23).”[2] While these people had works, they didn’t do what Jesus calls the “will of My Father.” Instead, the will of God would be for these men to believe and trust Christ (Jn. 6:28-29).

[1] Lloyd-Jones, David Martin. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976. 182.

[2] Bing, Charles C. Lordship Salvation: a Biblical Evaluation and Response. Burleson, TX: GraceLife Ministries, 1992. 41.